Ecotourism is a form of tourism that emphasizes on nature’s attractions and it mostly revolves around getting in touch with nature and its dependence on the concept of sustainable development, creation of educational and ecological opportunities, and appreciating the mother Earth. Considering the concept of ecotourism sustainable development, assessment of ecological capability and identification of natural capacities of each region along with a proper planning may lead to sustainable and continuous utilization of the nature, as well as creating employment and earning income. Dena County is located in the north of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad Province with an area of 1577 km2. Due to its rare and valuable natural phenomena, this county has a great potential in tourism attraction that can host tourists and nature lovers in all seasons.
Material and methods:
Multi-criteria decision-making methods (MCDMs) allow different criteria to be applied simultaneously in determination of the best option and the most appropriate condition. The Analytical Network Process (ANP) is one of the multi-criteria decision-making methods with non-linear structure and two-way relationships. In this study, after analyzing the relationships between different indicators of ecotourism development and determining their relative weight using ANP, we identified the potential areas for ecotourism development using Weighted Linear Combination (WLC) method. It is common to use fuzzy series theory with the WLC method to standardize the criteria.
Results and discussion:
According to the structure of the decision making of the ANP, the index of landslide sensitivity with relative weight of 0.3 and the geographical direction with relative weight of 0.014 had the highest and lowest significance, respectively, among the indicators reviewed in identifying potential areas of ecotourism development in the study area. Based on the relative weight extraction of 17 indicators of ecotourism, from ANP and their integration with WLC method, the largest area of ecotourism classes was suited to the appropriately qualified class (S2), relatively suitable (S3), completely appropriate (S4) and inappropriate (S1).
In most decisions, managers demand the optimization of several indicators instead of one index. Obviously, these indices are not comparable due to different scales, and even in some cases they are mutually opposite, so that an increase in one indicator decreases the other. Therefore, in decision making with multiple criteria, we usually look for an option that offers the most benefit to all criteria. In the Analytical Hierarchical Process (AHP) weighting method, the dependence of criteria, indicators, and options is linear, bottom-up or up-down. In this study, it was determined that the dependence of the effective indicators on the development of ecotourism was bilateral and formed a network with a nonlinear system (feedback system), which in this case, the theory of networks should be used to calculate the weight of the elements. Similar to other previous studies, the results of this study also showed that the combined use of fuzzy logic and the ANP method in determining the preference and weight of criteria relative to each other provided more logical and flexible conditions for WLC evaluation. Comparing the results of this study with other studies showed that the indicators affecting the development of ecotourism varied in different regions.